Has this question crossed your mind? The industry colleagues listed below took the challenge and replied with their honest answers.
We are all in this propane space on one level or another, working toward a future that holds promise, sustainability and profitability.
We recognize the challenges and reap the rewards. But would we choose it all over again in today’s economic climate and with the challenges that persist? This column poses open-ended questions to some of your industry colleagues. The following are their replies reported verbatim.
Responses From Coast to Coast
“I love my business, and I love our industry. However, I cannot imagine starting a propane company from scratch today. In California, the number of government tax and oversight agencies is egregious, and the overlap in regulations is absurd. I am grateful that my father started this company during a time when it was relatively easy to launch a propane business.”
Ted Johnson Propane
Baldwin Park, California
“In California, knowing what I know about the agenda in Sacramento, I would definitely think long and hard about opening up here. The state is committed to a non-carbon-based fuel energy system.
We already have rolling electrical blackouts in the summer because our grid system cannot keep up with demand. They are removing hydroelectric dams, which will take more supply out of the grid.
Regrettably, California sets a bad example for many other states that want to copy our policies in the name of climate change.
The Western Propane Gas Association (WPGA) is fighting hard to slow the progress of these policies and we appreciate the support of the National Propane Gas Association (NPGA), but we all need to join in this fight because these policies may be coming to a state you live and work in every day. We started our business with the intention of passing it on to our kids and grandkids. We pray it will still be here for our grandkids.”
Shasta Gas Propane
Palo Cedro, California
“Although the bobtail business has its challenges, I cannot imagine myself in any other line of work. Every time that a truck rolls off the assembly line, I get a big smile on my face thinking about the joy its driver will get when he climbs behind the wheel for the first time.”
“Yes, I would absolutely enter the propane industry today. The industry is ever-evolving and continuously working through changes and challenges, and that makes it a rewarding career choice. The propane industry is a fairly small industry — you have the opportunity to get to meet, know and work with some great people that become good friends.
It obviously has technical aspects, but this industry is really a logistics-based business, where optimizing resources to meet customer need is a daily focus. Good people who are well-trained and supported make for happy customers and a very rewarding career.”
Boyd H. McGathey
Energy Distribution Partners
“The propane industry is facing some huge challenges, primarily from the environmentalists who want to do away with hydrocarbons altogether. However, there are still opportunities out there to exploit the weakness in those arguments. For a person in my shoes who recognize that potential, yes, I would take on that challenge.”
Tinley Park, Illinois
“My husband has been a propane marketer since 1970, and I began working with him in 1988. When I look back at how things have changed over the years, I have mixed feelings about whether we would enter the propane business today.
While all companies face challenges, I think the whole business culture in this industry has changed. It is more difficult to hire employees who are loyal and want to work.
With the current administration in office, I am concerned about their ‘no fossil fuels’ plan. I don’t think I would get into the propane industry; but when I look at all of the good friends we have made through the years, I would have missed out on some great relationships.”
McMahan’s Bottle Gas
“Absolutely! I told my dad when I was 12 that I planned to sign his paycheck one day. That’s a goal I would still be working toward if I were not already in the industry. I grew up in the propane industry and have always been drawn to the incredible people in it that so often feel like family.”
“I’m fascinated with this industry, so I would say yes. I believe it’s the best time to be in this industry, as the Green New Deal seems to be the current buzz — along with the electrification of everything.
Our industry has a great story to tell here. Propane is the cleanest alternative to gasoline and diesel and yes — cleaner than electricity. This dream of powering our entire world on electricity generated by the sun and wind is a misconception to say the least. Propane can be the solution, along with working with other clean sources to keep us moving forward, not only in production, but towards a healthier, cleaner climate.”
“Yes! Absolutely! With a laser focus on the most updated technology and putting the right people in the right seats on the bus.”
Buffalo, New York
“I am not in the retail propane business, but I work with many clients who are, and I have been involved in the industry for more than 30 years.
At my age, I would not enter into the business. However, if I were 10 years younger, I would certainly consider it. It’s just a great industry, filled with local people serving local people in their own communities.”
“The companies I work with are their own work-family units, and it typifies all that is good with family-owned small businesses.
The current environment of low interest rates is an extra bonus for funding capital to enter the industry, and numerous consolidation opportunities are available.
Yes, there is the Green New Deal and other relevant challenges at present. But we have a great structure of associations to support us. Yes, if I could knock off 10 years (or maybe 15), I would buy a bobtail.”
Cetane Associates LLC
“My short answer to this month’s question would likely be no — I would not go into the energy market today.
If I were able to pursue my childhood dream, the one I went to school for and was my passion, I would be training horses, teaching people to ride and enjoying weekends at Appaloosa horse shows across the country. However, a twist of fate caused Jimmy and I to let the horses and my dreams go in 1986.
After my husband Jimmy passed in 2010, I found myself at the helm of Proctor Gas and soon embraced the industry and its wonderful members, many of whom I now call friends.
I’ve enjoyed my time learning and working, taking care of my customers and being more involved in the community.
I vividly remember Jimmy telling me on our way home from South Carolina in 2010 that he wasn’t having any fun anymore. He said that the energy business was changing, and it wasn’t what it used to be.
I didn’t understand his comments back then, but I do now. I told our current governor, as he stood at my fiftieth open house in 2016, that our industry was facing a war and that I had never fought so hard to work for a living in my professional life.
I’m not afraid of work, and I’m not afraid to stand up for what’s right. But having to fight every day to work for a living — well, that’s exhausting.
So, knowing what I know now, I think I’d find something a little less stressful. I believe, at the end of the day, we will win this battle on energy because we are a valuable piece of America’s energy source.
Am I young enough for this battle, though? I’m not so sure.”
Propane in 2021
After decades of change, our industry faces the strongest headwinds of its 109-year-old existence. Positioning our abundant, low-carbon fuel as part of the solution for the globe’s prosperous future is our collective challenge.
With a diverse group of both experienced and younger employees, owners, entrepreneurs and leaders, we have strength in our common goals to demonstrate the value of C3H8 derived from the ground or from biomass.
Legislative and regulatory issues are potential looming threats. Learn what you can to be a part of the conversation in your area. NPGA and the Propane Energy Resource Council are working together in this existential effort, and each one of us in the industry can play a role.